City claim victory on opening day

West Ham United heralded a whole new beginning at the Boleyn Ground but it proved a disappointing kick-off to the new season for Alan Curbishley as Rolando Bianchi and Geovanni gave Sven-Goran Eriksson's mix 'n' match side victory.

A goal in each half from the Italian and Brazilian substitute gave City all three points against a home team that saw Craig Bellamy and stand-in skipper Freddie Ljungberg make promising, albeit disappointing Hammers debuts.

With new England boss Steve McClaren watching from the Directors' box, his predecessor Eriksson had handed starts to half-a-dozen new players, who had cost £30million-plus during a summer buying frenzy.

Having bought some on video evidence alone, the Swede must have been just as inquisitive as the City fans packed into the Centenary Stand, to see how his costly collection of foreign faces would fare.

Certainly, the early indications looked promising as £4.7million Bulgarian Martin Petrov sent a trio of long-rangers wide, while £8million Brazilian, Elano, fired over from 20-yards.

And on 18 minutes, City went one better and took the lead when Elano's low, right-wing cross into the six-yard box was slid home by lone, £8.8million Italian striker Rolando Bianchi, who had slipped his markers.

Eriksson's five-man, midfield blanket continued to stifle the frustrated Hammers and only a brave double-stop by Robert Green prevented Bianchi from gobbling up the left-overs after Elano let fly with another long ranger.

Ten minutes before the break, Ljungberg finally found himself with time on his hands to muster Hammers' first meaningful effort of the first half but his 18-yard chip looped wide of both debutant 'keeper Kasper Schmeichel and his left-hand post, to leave City with their one-goal advantage at the break.

Both Matthew Etherington and Hayden Mullins were introduced for the restart as Luis Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer retired and that double-substitution gave Hammers fresh impetus as Bobby Zamora shot wide after Micah Richards agonisingly nodded the ball off the leaping Bellamy's head underneath the City crossbar.

And on the hour mark, Etherington's unplayable volley across goal eluded the studs of the sliding Ljungberg.

With hope returning to the sun-drenched Hammers' fans amongst an opening day, sell-out crowd of 34,921, Curbs introduced the fit-again Dean Ashton following a year-long absence, to turn up the heat yet further.

At the other end, though, City's overseas collection were still threatening on the break and both Bulgarian substitute Valeri Bojinov and Petrov had excellent chances to double the visitors' lead.

But, with 10 minutes remaining, the best chance of the half fell to Ashton, who met Etherington's inviting left-wing cross with a crisp 12-yard volley that cleared Schmeichel's bar by inches.

And City took full advantage of that let-off, three minutes from time, when Nedum Onuoha weaved his way into the Hammers box before cutting back to fellow substitute Geovanni, who gave Green no chance with a low 10-yarder that sealed victory for Eriksson's men.